Friedrich KALKBRENNER (1785-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 85 (1826) [32:58]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 107 (1829) [24:11]
Adagio ed Allegro di bravura, Op. 102 (1830) [11:03]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Howard Shelley (piano/conductor)
rec. 23 -26 June 2010, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania
HYPERION CDA67843 [68:41]
Friedrich Kalkbrenner has received a remarkably bad press since the Nineteenth Century; the consensus of opinion appears to be that his music is more concerned with virtuoso display than real substance. Not content with belittling his music, many critics have gone on to attack the character of the man himself by accusing him of being arrogant and egotistical. Howard Shelley's superb new disc goes a long way towards restoring Kalkbrenner to his true position as one of the more inventive composers of piano concertos working in the 1820s and 1830s - roughly comparable in stature to Hummel, Cramer and Field.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 contains some striking moments but suffers a little from having a first movement that is overlong; a cruel musical surgeon might shave off three or four minutes to great advantage. The tonal scheme is also rather overdependent on E Minor/Major - but this is a criticism that could be aimed at the first movement of Chopin's First Concerto as well. Kalkbrenner's style is attractive, his orchestration expert - more so than in Chopin's two concertos - and his piano writing is brilliantly imaginative. The slow movement has an opening theme that is slightly reminiscent of the finale of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. This is developed into a movement of great charm and beauty. The finale is built on an infectious main theme and has the advantage of exciting bravura writing for the soloist, brilliantly despatched here by Howard Shelley.
The Piano Concerto No. 3 is perhaps marginally finer than its predecessor. The opening is most inviting and the invention as a whole is on a higher level than in the equivalent movement of the Second Concerto. The slow movement is brief but very appealing and leads seamlessly into the energetic finale, which has more than its fair share of the usual pyrotechnics. This is a most enjoyable concerto that should be heard more often and this performance is fully worthy of it.
The Adagio ed Allegro di bravura does exactly what it says on the tin; a soulful slow movement leads to another exciting showpiece. Here and throughout the disc, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra offer playing that is exceptionally crisp and alert. Howard Shelley does a magnificent job of performing the fiendishly difficult piano parts whilst maintaining the highest level of orchestral discipline.
The sound is of the highest quality. This is an enticing disc of unusual but highly enjoyable early Nineteenth Century piano concertos.
David Jennings
Another superb reissue from Hyperion, excellently engineered.